Ankara makes its own way against YPG
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Jan 20th that Turkey’s military operation into the norther Afrin province of Syria has “actively begun in the field.” He added, that Syria’s city of Manbij will be the next target for a Turkish combat operation.
As a reaction to Turkey’s military op in Afrin, President Donald Trump’s administration said, “we understand Turkey’s concerns about the PKK,” and have urged Turkey not to take any action in Afrin and stay focused on the fight against DEASH.
Nonetheless, though the statement was released by Washington, it is evident that they do not understand Turkey’s position on the matter, or they are simply being delusory.
In fact, two years ago the Obama administration had assured that all YPG forces would be moved back to the east, across the Euphrates following the liberation and stabilization of Manbij City.
President Erdoğan has repeatedly said at many different occasions that Obama did not keep his promises regarding the removal of YPG terrorists from Manbij.
Likewise, in mid 2016, at the time when Obama’s special envoy was supervising the counter Daesh fight, Brett McGurk had tweeted that YPG fighters will leave the region once the training of the local forces is complete-a promise unfulfilled.
The Trump administration was a new hope for Turkey, as Ankara thought the new administration in Washington would take a different position with regards to PKK linked YPG. Initially, matters seemed to be just as Turkey had hoped. The Turkish Foreign Minister announced, following the Erdoğan-Trump phone call that Trump has promised that Washington will no longer provide weapons to the YPG.
However, it was brought to light that Trump does not control Washington’s Syria policy, and that his words on the issue do not actually count.
A latest predicament has been the issue with CENTCOM. It’s commander, Lt. General Paul Funk at a recent visit to Manbij said, “you hit us, we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves.”
As a result of all these broken promises, Turkey is now taking the matter into her own hands clearing her borders from terror groups that are a continuous threat to Turkish territories.
And now Washington in turn, is relying on diplomacy to de-escalate tensions with Ankara.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster are expected to visit Turkey on separate trips in the coming days.
Mr McMaster was expected to arrive in Turkey on the weekend, while Mr. Tillerson on Tuesday, reported officials in Ankara.
Needless to say, Ankara expects a consistent policy on Syria, and expects Washington to keep promises. The upcoming visits from McMaster and Tillerson bring about an opportunity for Ankara to change Washington’s YPG policy, which has been shaped by CENTCOM. Presumably, the White House and the State Department need to play a more active role in Washington’s Syria policy and take measures to replace Pentagon’s approach which ignores the social dynamics in the region.